If you watch the news, you are aware of the national anthem protests being discussed across the country; however, you may not have felt that a small school like Marist would participate in such protests. The Marist College Black Student Union (BSU) proved differently.
The BSU with approval from faculty and administrations, silently protested during the playing of the national anthem at the Marist football game against Campbell at Tenney Stadium. The BSU is following the protest started by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and continued by athletes and people throughout the country.
In a Facebook post, the Marist BSU urged students to protest with them. The post read, “Please remember to come out tomorrow, this is very important. If we want to see changes on campus we advocate for, we need to take action. Spread the word to your friends, classmates, everyone! #maristBSU.”
On October 1, Roughly 20 Marist students wearing all black gathered at Marist’s end zone. When the national anthem played, some students knelt while others stood with their first raised in the air.
“If we don’t “stand” for something, we will fall for anything,” said Ashley Kayne, president of the Black Student Union.
Students wanted to not only protest the poor treatment of blacks throughout the country, but also on the Marist campus. The club’s demonstration was done in hopes that changes would be made on campus.
“Students have the right to reflect on or protest their beliefs, especially with such a controversial issue,” said David Yellen, president of Marist College. “I think it went very smoothly.”
On August 26, Kaepernick refused to stand during the playing of the national anthem at the San Francisco home game against the Green Bay Packers. Sitting or kneeling during the national anthem is a silent protest to show support for people of color and to take stand against police brutality. Kaepernick publicly announced his reasons for protesting, stating that African Americans and minorities are treated differently in the United States.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL Media. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way.”
Reflecting on the image of “bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder,” he has reiterated numerous times that he is acting as a voice to people who do not have one.
“This stand wasn’t for me. This is because I’m seeing things happen to people that don’t have a voice, people that don’t have a platform to talk and have their voices heard, and effect change,” said Kaepernick.
Kapernick was joined by teammate Eric Reid, safety for the San Francisco 49ers, on September 1 in San Diego. Just minutes later, Jeremy Lane, cornerback for the Seattle Seahawks, sat during the national anthem in Oakland, California.
On September 19, Petty Officer 2nd Class Janaye Ervin of the U.S. Navy followed Kaepernick’s lead and reportedly refused to salute during the playing of the National Anthem at a daily 8 a.m. flag raising at Pearl Harbor.
“I feel like a hypocrite singing about the ‘land of the free’ when I know that only applies to some Americans,” Ervin wrote on Facebook. “I will gladly stand when ALL AMERICANS are afforded the same freedom.”
While Kaepernick, Reid, Ervin and the Marist BSU protested in support of people of color and minorities, U.S. Women’s Soccer midfielder/winger Megan Rapinoe protested for personal reasons.
On September 4, Rapinoe knelt during the national anthem at a game in Chicago against the Red Stars. She explained that her reasoning for supporting Kaepernick was not only to stand up for blacks and people of color, but also for equal rights for gays as well.
Rapinoe told ESPN, “Being gay, I have stood with my hand over my heart during the national anthem and felt like I haven’t had my liberties protected.”
Despite President Yellen’s approval, the protests have received a lot of criticism throughout the country due to its disrespect for the military and people who have fought and died for our country.
After being deemed the most disliked player in the NFL, according to USA Today, Kaepernick met with Nate Boyer, former Green Beret and NFL long snapper, to discuss taking a knee rather than sitting in order to honor the military.
“We came up with taking a knee because there are issues that still need to be addressed and it was also a way to show more respect to the men and women who fight for this country,” said Kaepernick.
On September 7, the playing of the national anthem at a soccer match between the Washington Spirit and the Seattle Reign was rescheduled to play while both teams were still in their locker rooms to prevent Rapinoe from protesting.
The Spirit said in an email, “We respectfully disagree with her method of hijacking our organization’s event to draw attention to what is ultimately a personal – albeit worthy – cause.”
U.S. Soccer also expressed disappointment in Rapinoe’s protest, sending out a statement that requested players and coaches use the national anthem as a moment “to reflect upon the liberties and freedom we all appreciate in this country.
Ervin was allegedly punished for her behaviors stating on Facebook that “The Navy has decided to punish me for defending the Constitution and has taken away my equipment that I need to do my Naval job.”
The Marist BSU had a live video stream of their protest on Facebook and tagged the Poughkeepsie Journal and New York Times in an effort to gain media attention. While most Facebook comments came from students praising the protest, some viewers felt a sense of disappointment.
“I bet you young Americans stood for the national anthem growing up. I’m so sick of this crap,” said Kevin Flynn, physical education teacher and coach for a neighboring school district.
Haynes defended the protest stating, “We wanted to do something. People link protests with riots, but that’s a preconceived notion. This was just a peaceful statement.”
James Parady, head Marist football coach, explained the importance of standing as a team and instructed his players to do something together. While the BSU did their demonstration, the Marist football team stood in a single line with their arms interlocked as a sign of unity.
“We decided it would be best as a team to interlock arms to show respect for not only the injustices and protests, but to also show that we are in this fight as a team,” said Cameron Gibson, senior captain. “We are a family and want to show that in a way that would not disrespect anyone.”
Clarence Johnson, linebacker coach for the football team and BSU faculty advisor, expressed his appreciation for the protest calling it a “life statement” rather than a political one.
According to the September 27 Marist Poll, “Protesting the National Anthem: Disrespectful or an Expression of Freedom?”, “nearly two-thirds of residents consider the anthem to be a symbol of Americans’ rights and freedoms. However, Americans divide about whether or not it is disrespectful for a player or team to refuse to stand for the national anthem in protest of an issue.”
The poll asks, “What do Americans perceive to be the significance of the national anthem?” then answers, “65% of residents say it is more a symbol of Americans’ rights and freedoms while 27% report it more a symbol of the sacrifice of the U.S. military.”
Americans are generally divided when it comes to public protests or demonstrations, but regardless of much criticism, most Americans understand the significance of the protest started by Kaepernick.